Using experiential and social learning for engagement | S1 E6

First published: 14 July, 2020

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Using experiential and social learning for engagement | S1 E6

How might experiential learning evolve in the ‘new normal’?

In this episode, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Jamie Thompson about experiential learning and the benefits of in-person learning. Jamie is an expert in the subject, the Managing Director of MTa Learning and the Leader in Residence at Leeds University Business school.

What is experiential learning?

Jamie begins by talking about his work and discussing experiential learning, which he describes as getting people to take ownership for their own development, and making it relevant to them and their workplace by delivering a learning journey through experience-based exercises.

The activities that people participate in are used as the basis for discussion to discover what does and does not work, helping people recognise what is effective, and encouraging them to take this new knowledge and understanding back into the workplace.

Why is in-person experiential learning so effective?

While the world is moving rapidly toward online learning, in-person learning meets the human needs of people. It’s engaging – people like being with people and find this interaction motivating. It also utilises the advantages of social learning. Jamie points out that this is an inherent quality of us as humans. “We learn from others in the workplace. Children learn from their peers and parents.

In-person learning allows you to pick up on subtle clues about how behaviours affect others. It also allows incidental conversations, one-to-ones, small breakouts, and quiet moments that supercharge learning.

In-person learning also removes the technical issues that accompany online learning, while “face-to-face offers more potential to increase the efficacy of learning, particularly for more emotionally charged subjects.

When you are learning face-to-face, you experience the process with others. You get to see, feel and sense things with each other, and it is easier to recognise when someone wants to talk. Simply put, getting people together makes a bigger impact.

Experiential learning delivers more realistic training

In an uncertain world and the new normal post the coronavirus lockdown, the nature of work and training is evolving, but Jamie feels that not all training can be delivered online. The reality is that many organisations still thrive with face-to-face learning experiences, partly because they are more akin to the way that those organisations work. He immediately names a few sectors (Navy; Fire Service; Schools; Tourism; Hospitality; Our wonderful NHS”) in which some aspects of work will change, but that will benefit from face-to-face learning.

We’re not duplicating what can be done online with PowerPoints or formal learning, Jamie says, but making sure it’s very high-quality human interactions that people value, that build cohesiveness, and bring people together.

Jamie believes the key is that when organisations do bring people together, they don’t squander the opportunity.

The evolution of training

The coronavirus crisis and the ensuing lockdown has certainly reshaped how many people will work in the future, and Jamie believes that this will also have an impact on experiential learning. He says that some will go online, though he feels that we will return to where people come together to learn because of the huge benefits of doing so. What he sees in the future of training and development is more blending of online and face-to-face learning to deliver more effective outcomes.

As we continue to prioritise quality of life, addressing our real needs as humans, getting people together has no equal. The secret will be to make learning experiences as holistic as possible, providing quality interactions, and helping people become more resilient.

Useful Links:

MTa website: https://www.experientiallearning.org/

Jamie’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamiebartthompson/

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